Back in 2007 I sat down in an Indian restaurant for the first time, ordered the chicken Vindaloo, and fell head over heels in love with the warm, spicy seasonings and gravies of Indian cuisine. Chutney, Naan, Basmati rice and curry became my new obsession. Growing up the most exposed I’d ever been to ethnic cuisine was Tex Mex and Chinese buffets. My only saving grace was how close I grew up to Louisiana and so I was in the least exposed to really good Creole and Cajun foods. Once inside the world of tumeric, saffron, and Garam Marsala I appreciated for the first time just how big the universe of flavor actually is. I then committed fully to experiencing as many different cuisines as possible.
So after enjoying a sizzling dish of Hara Bhara Kabab at Karma in Philly or Chicken 65 at Pintu’s in West Springfield I get back in my kitchen, think outside my comfort zone and develop my own versions of the amazing foods I’ve eaten. Over the years I’ve played quite a bit with the flavors of India and below is a Southeast Texas Indian fusion of tomato gravy and Paneer. I grew up eating tomato gravy for breakfast with buttermilk biscuits. It’s usually prepared with bacon and garlic but here I spike it with curry and Garam Masala. Paneer is very similar to cheese curds and I find mine in the coolers of the Indian section at Newark Farmer’s Market on Kirkwood Hwy. This market has several ethnic sections all in one location and I can find everything from ham hocks to Gochujang! If you cannot find any Paneer, tofu is an excellent substitution. I brighten this dish with a generous garnish of Cilantro Mint Chutney right before serving.
1 pkg fresh Paneer, cubed (note: found at most ethnic grocers)
5 to 6 large fresh tomatoes, quartered
3-4 cloves fresh garlic, minced
1 cup Free Range Organic chicken broth or homemade stock
2 tablespoons Penzeys Curry Powder, or curry powder of your choice
2 tablespoons Garam Masala
1/4 teaspoons Turmeric powder
1 teaspoon cumin powder
1 medium Sweet onion, diced
1/2 teaspoon Ghee or 1 tab of butter
1 cup Cilantro, loosely packed
1 cup Mint, loosely packed
1 Jalapeno, diced (remove seeds and membrane to reduce heat)
1-4 tablespoons EVOO
Juice of half a Lime
Salt and Pepper
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large mixing bowl, toss quartered tomatoes with a tablespoon of EVOO, salt and pepper. Roast tomatoes in the oven 30 – 45 minutes. Remove and allow the tomatoes to cool. Remove skins if desired, place in a large mixing bowl and with a fork or potato masher crush the tomatoes. Set aside.
While tomatoes are roasting, combine the cilantro, mint, jalapeno, and lime juice in large blender with a couple teaspoons of water. Pulse until smooth and slowly add in the additional EVOO, about 2-3 tablespoons. The chutney should have a consistency similar to pesto, adjust with water as needed. Season with salt and pepper. Set aside.
In a cast iron skillet or sauce pan of your choice, melt the Ghee or butter over med/high heat then add the diced onions. Salt the onions and saute them until translucent, about 5 minutes. Stir in the garlic, curry powder, Garam Masala, cumin, and turmeric. Saute two minutes more. Pour in the chicken stock and crushed roasted tomatoes. Bring to a boil, reduce and simmer about 20 minutes or until the sauce has thickened into a gravy. Gently stir in the Paneer and simmer until Paneer is just warmed through, about five minutes. Adjust seasonings as needed. Serve hot with Naan or Basmati Rice. Garnish with the Cilantro-Mint Chutney.